Saturday, April 03, 2004

a deconstruction of Incarnation

Incarnation is the new buzz word. (Alongside missional). Words are power, so in the spirit of deconstruction;
we are Incarnational because Jesus was Incarnational? Right.

Of course …
So Incarnational mission is retreating from people …
as Jesus did lots when he sought the quiet to pray?
So Incarnational mission is a geographic immobility and a snobbish attitude to other cultures …
as Jesus did when he focused on Israel and only very reluctantly blessed the Syro-phonecian woman?
So Incarnational mission is refusing to share the Messianic secret …
as Jesus instructed people he healed to do?

No, of course not. So what is Incarnational?


A draft definition which awaits your feedback (drawing from John 1:14 – Jesus became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood).
Draft definition: The immersion in the life of Jesus rooted and growing in a particular context.

Yet Jesus at times chose to limit Incarnation. He did not heal everyone and he did not travel to all cultures in the world. So we must hold Incarnation lightly, because in Jesus it is limited.

Note to self: Willow Creek is a superb example of Incarnation in an executive culture of Northern Chicago. Supporters of Incarnation must applaud all Incarnations, not just there own.

In the emerging church I see Incarnation occurring in a number of ways.

Incarnational worship – the expression of Christ in postmodern worship forms. Alternative worship is one such example and Jonny Baker has done some excellent writing and research on this here. Alt.worship is criticized for being attractional here. It might have evolved that way, but it’s heart beat is Incarnation.

Incarnational forms – some good examples of this are the Aussie bloggers; backyard and living room. This is an attempt to find more relational ways of being church, often not on Sunday. Mission occurs through relationships. Redemptive parties or big gigs encourage these natural processes. These have the advantage of still being too early to note criticisms.

Both worship and forms are attempts to move the conversation forward. Supporters of Incarnation must applaud all Incarnations, not just there own, limited Incarnation.

Posted by steve at 06:21 PM

8 Comments

  1. Good call – incarnation must be specific to the neighbourhood – and each is different – which is why we can affirm the willow creekers or Bill Hybels

    Comment by hamo — April 3, 2004 @ 7:37 pm

  2. A definition of incarnation I want to see is would need to include a “moving into the neighbourhood” that makes a difference to that neighbourhood; that brings cohesion to the fragmentation of society; that demonstrates true hope and freedom.

    Comment by Gordon — April 4, 2004 @ 1:44 am

  3. good point gordon – cohesion is not specific to john 1:14, but is certainly part of the mission of God according to Colossians 1 – Christ as the integrator of the Universe. This has ecological and communal implications, as you point out.

    Comment by steve — April 4, 2004 @ 3:27 pm

  4. Hey Steve, any chance I could get you to let Mean Dean at blogs4God know that you’ve moved URLs?

    - Peace
    Dave

    Comment by Dave King — April 4, 2004 @ 6:56 pm

  5. Hmmm.

    “we are Incarnational because Jesus was Incarnational?”

    I’d put it the other way

    “Jesus was Incarnational because we are Incarnational”

    Gen 1-2 embodiment and all that.

    Comment by Stephen — April 4, 2004 @ 7:43 pm

  6. good post mate.

    I really tossed and turned in whether to include alt worship in with the other ones in describing it as ‘attractional’. I have heard about alt worship gatherings that are incarnational, but never really seen any. Perhaps we’ve got a bit of an Aussie strain going on here. My experience of Alt worship in Australia is that its generally attended by Christians or something that Christians invite their non Christians along to…generally in a church building or a place where a church regularly meets. ie…we put something on for people to come to our turf to participate in.

    Having said that – I don’t believe that attractional necessarily always = bad. There are attractional elements in virtually all forms of church, even some of the most incarnational models that I’ve seen. Hmm….good post – wish I had some more time to respond but I’m on long distance dial up.

    Comment by Darren Rowse — April 4, 2004 @ 9:51 pm

  7. All under one banner

    The blog world has allowed a number of people involved in ‘alternative worship’, aka ‘emerging church’ to make their voices…

    Comment by little more than a placeholder — April 4, 2004 @ 10:54 pm

  8. All under one banner

    The blog world has allowed a number of people involved in ‘alternative worship’, aka ‘emerging church’ to make their voices…

    Comment by little more than a placeholder — April 4, 2004 @ 10:54 pm

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